BERKELEY – On a sunny Thursday in Berkeley, California basketball coach Cuonzo Martin strolled into the team meeting room with a large smile on his face – and it was easy to see why.
“I think we’ll fight for the top spot [in the Pac-12],” said Martin, who has extremely high hopes for a team coming off a season without a post-season bid.
Martin introduced the beginnings of his first recruiting class as coach of the Bears, and it was an impressive starting point. After graduating three seniors from last year’s team, Martin presented the first two members of the 2015 class.
[VIDEO: Martin Introduces Rabb]
The focal point of the incoming freshman is local standout and McDonald’s All-American Ivan Rabb, who follows in the footsteps of Bay Area legends like Jason Kidd as he hopes to rejuvenate the program in his backyard.
“I think the biggest key is having great guys around him,” said Martin. “He’s coming in as a highly talented player, a very talented young man, who has a lot of skill. [He] plays inside and outside, and handles the ball. The biggest key is he’ll come in and be able to play the way he knows how to play. It won’t be pressing because he’ll have older guys around him that can make plays and allow him to do the things he needs to do to be successful.”
Martin continued to sing the praises of Rabb, who is one of the highest rated basketball prospects to ever pick Cal.
“It was very important to land a guy of this caliber to take that next step,” said Martin. “He understands the game when you talk basketball to him, he has a feel for the game, he likes to watch basketball games. Sometimes you have guys that are good players that don’t spend a lot of time watching and studying the game. I think he spends a lot of time trying to understand the game.”
After Rabb, Martin introduced shooting guard Tyson Jolly who recently committed to Cal after an official visit on April 11.
[VIDEO: Martin Introduces Jolly]
“6-4. Athletic. Tough,” said Martin. “He’s one of the few guys I’ve recruited that reminds me a lot of myself in a lot of ways. Just a guy that competes, battles, and challenges his teammates. He really pushes guys to get better and really wants to win. He loves to defend and play hard.”
Many Cal fans expected Davon Dillard to be introduced as the third member of the recruiting class, but at the time of the press conference, the Bears still had not received his letter of intent, and as such, he could not be commented on. However, sources indicate that Dillard could still be a part of this class, but it would not be right away.
Another big piece of the puzzle for Cal next year could be Tyrone Wallace, who has yet to decide on whether to make the jump to the NBA or stay another year in college. Rabb indicated that he wanted Wallace to be his point guard when he committed on Monday, but there’s still no decision that’s been made.
“We’ve met again, but it’s his call,” said Martin. “There’s no pressure. He might tell [the media] before he tells me. I try to give him a piece of mind to make his decision when he’s ready to make his decision. I just gave my pros and cons and that sort of thing. We’ll go from there.”
Martin introduced a very solid class – one that’s ranked in the top 20 nationwide – to help improve upon his first season, but the Bears still hope to add to this class further as they continue to make a go at Scout’s No. 1 overall prospect Jaylen Brown and other graduate transfers to reinforce their ranks.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” said Martin on using all four scholarship slots in this class. “There are definitely guys we are still recruiting.”